It is remarkable how the media see only one aspect of the government’s barbarous assault on university and further education in the UK – the huge rise in tuition fees. Important yes, very important. The debts that the government’s decision will pile onto future generations of the ‘squeezed’ middle and working class will bring incalculable problems and will necessarily deter many school children from taking an increasingly privatised university education.
The media focus, however, means that there has been hardly any discussion on two other major issues, First, there is the government’s destruction of teaching the humanities and most social sciences in our – not quite the right word now, our! – universities.
But it is the abolition of education maintenance allowances that is the cruellest cut of all. I found it extraordinary that when the television news pointed their cameras at the protesting young people and children, they failed to use their eyes to see and explain the phalanxes of placards demanding ‘Save EMAs’.
The much-touted ‘pupil premium’ is but a fig leaf for a disgraceful withdrawal from this vital assistance to young people from poorer backgrounds who wish to carry on learning and go on to gain qualifications in further or higher education.
Then there is the abandonment of Aimhigher, the national partnership scheme of summer schools, campus visits and mentoring that aims to get more young working class people. That is now being quietly put to rest next July.
If carried through, these measures would surely give the lie to Nick Clegg’s claim that this coalition government is committed to increase social mobility.
Meanwhile the media are doing a great job on the school kids who are taking part in the demonstrations, exaggerating the violence and belittlingly their motivation. The Daily Mail excelled the other tabloids, trashing the ‘Facebook and IPhone generation’, who are ‘remarkably young and, in many cases, frighteningly naive, and who turn up to pose for photographs on Facebook ‘against the backdrop of carnage for which they played truant’.
The Mail journalist, who looks from his own photo to be young enough to know better, didn’t notice, it seems, the school girls who linked arms around the provocatively unmanned police van to protect it from the battering it was receiving.